Even as the House is ramping up its investigation into the Trump administration’s dealings with Ukraine, the Senate Intelligence Committee is conducting its own inquiry and is seeking an interview with the whistleblower who filed the initial complaint with the intelligence community’s inspector general, according to a letter obtained by Yahoo News.
A letter seeking to question the still-anonymous whistleblower was sent Tuesday to Andrew Bakaj, the lawyer who represents the official. It was signed by committee chair Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. — signifying that the panel is pursuing the politically explosive issue on a bipartisan basis.
“In order to ascertain the appropriate path forward for your client while protecting your client’s privacy, we are writing to request that you make your client available for a closed bipartisan interview with Committee counsel no later than Friday, September 27, 2019, in a mutually agreeable secure location,” the letter reads.
It was not immediately clear whether the White House will agree to let the official be questioned. A committee spokeswoman declined comment. “Since you showed me the letter, I can confirm its authenticity,” wrote Bakaj’s law partner Mark Zaid in an email to Yahoo News. “But I cannot comment on the substance at this time. The letter speaks for itself.”
After the letter was sent, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said the whistleblower’s lawyer informed him the official “would like to speak to our committee and has requested guidance” from the acting director of national intelligence on his appearance, which could come “as soon as this week.”
We have been informed by the whistleblower’s counsel that their client would like to speak to our committee and has requested guidance from the Acting DNI as to how to do so.
We‘re in touch with counsel and look forward to the whistleblower’s testimony as soon as this week.
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) September 24, 2019
The acting head of national intelligence, Trump appointee Joseph Maguire, has refused to hand over the complaint to Congress but is slated to appear before Schiff’s committee on Thursday. The office’s general counsel, Jason Klitenic, wrote to Bakaj on Tuesday evening that “we have determined, after consulting with the Department of Justice, that your client’s disclosure to the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community ... does not fall within the statutory definition of an ‘urgent concern.’”
He said that he expects “that we will be able to provide actionable guidance soon” on testimony by the whistleblower to Congress.
For his part, President Trump announced on Twitter that he would release “the complete, fully declassified and unredacted transcript” tomorrow of his phone conversation with the president of Ukraine that is at the heart of the whistleblower complaint.
I am currently at the United Nations representing our Country, but have authorized the release tomorrow of the complete, fully declassified and unredacted transcript of my phone conversation with President Zelensky of Ukraine....
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2019
Late in the day, Politico reported that the administration would also release to Congress the whistleblower report, possibly as soon as this week.
The committee’s request for an interview increases pressure on the Trump White House over an issue that seems increasingly likely to trigger a formal impeachment inquiry in the House. The fact that Burr has joined the request for more information immediately sends a signal that even some Senate Republicans — until now, almost all loyal to Trump — acknowledge the need for more information about the explosive allegations that Trump improperly pressured Ukraine to do his bidding in an attempt to smear his potential Democratic rival Joe Biden.
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